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© Ottawa Therapy Dogs, 2002-2013

Could Your Dog be a Therapy Dog?


What does a therapy dog do?


Therapy dogs bring companionship, comfort and motivation in facility visits and school programs. Unlike guide dogs or assistance dogs, therapy dogs are there to be petted and enjoyed.


Please note that therapy dogs are *not* service dogs. If you want to learn more about service dogs, including psychiatric service dogs and emotional support animals, please visit


What kind of dog can be a therapy dog?


Therapy dogs come in all breeds, shapes and sizes. One thing they all must have in common is temperament – therapy dogs must be confident, friendly, patient and gentle in all situations.


Dogs must be between 2 and 11 years old to become an Ottawa Therapy Dog.



What kind of training is required?


No special training is required for the dog. However, basic obedience skills are required.


What about me as a handler? Do I need any special training?


As an OTD handler, you are not required to have prior training or experience. Your placement process will involve shadowing an experienced team in the field and being mentored. A criminal records check is also required and, depending on the facility, a more in-depth police records check may be needed. As well, many facilities require handlers to complete an orientation and volunteer training process. You may also be required to meet facility-specific requirements such as immunization (TB, for example) and dress code.


How do my dog and I become a therapy team with OTD?


The first step is to attend a mandatory information session to see if OTD is a good fit and to understand the level of commitment that is required.


The next step is to submit a membership application for consideration. Note: If you are familiar with OTD and what is involved in being a therapy dog team, your application can be submitted before you attend the information session.


The mandatory orientation session is next, followed by an evaluation for you and your dog as a handler/dog team. See the OTD Evaluation Checklist  for an explanation of what’s required.


If you pass the evaluation, the final step in the membership process is to pay the annual membership fee and arrange for a criminal records check. The OTD Annual Health Records Form must be completed by your veterinarian at this stage.


The placement process then begins, starting with shadowing and receiving mentoring with an experienced team.


How do I find out more?


You can attend an OTD information session for more details.


How do I apply?


You can start your application process. Applying to Ottawa Therapy Dogs